Baked Oatmeal with Apples and Apricots

Breakfast, how I love thee, let me count the ways. I love thee for the replenishment after an evening’s fast. I love thee for the breakfast coffee which awakens me from my evening slumber. I love thee for the simple unpretentious food like cereal, eggs, toast and fruit which ease me into a new day. I love thee for the endless sweet and savory discoveries that enlighten me.

Alas, more breakfast love has come my way in the form of a new breakfast discovery. It is not sexy or fancy, but belongs in the simple and unpretentious category – baked oatmeal. I happen to like oatmeal, and all hot cereal, so I am open-minded to this idea of baking it. However, if you are not a fan of oatmeal this might be the recipe that will win you over. It is one of the easiest and adaptable breakfast recipes around.

Baked Oatmeal with Apples ad Apricots recipe

For the last 50 something years, I have been dutifully stirring a pot of oatmeal to just the right consistency, without ever questioning if there was a better way. That was foolish of me, because there is. What a novel idea. It is so simple, I am kicking myself for not thinking of this earlier. Apparently, it is an old secret because the Amish have been baking oatmeal for generations.

Baked oatmeal is rolled oats layered between fruit and sweetened with maple syrup and milk. It is like a cross between a bread pudding and a fruit crumble without the crunch. It is not custardy or rich like bread pudding, but there is a similar texture. The rolled oats absorb the maple syrup and milk, plus the juices of all the fruit and spices while it is baking. This process transforms oatmeal from an indistinguishable porridge to a healthy baked breakfast treat. It is so good, you will believe you are eating dessert for breakfast, minus the guilt.

Baked Oatmeal with Apples and Apriots

While I was baking breakfast rolled oats, the house filled with the sweet scent of maple syrup, apple pie and oatmeal cookies. It was quite intoxicating. I had almost forgotten how magical these aromas can be. Despite the fact I had just eaten lunch, the smell of baked oatmeal made me so hungry, I became impatient for the oatmeal to finish. This seductive smell is very persuasive and could convert any oatmeal skeptic to grab a spoon and dig in. Certainly, I wish I knew about this 28 years ago when I tried, and miserably failed, to get my kids to eat hot cereal. I can imagine their chiming, “Is it done yet? Can I have some?”

Baked Oatmeal with Apples and Oatmeal recipe

Baked Oatmeal with Apples and Apricots recipe

Easy Adaptations for Baked Oatmeal

As I mentioned earlier, baked oatmeal is one of the most adaptable recipes around. If you are on a non-dairy diet, substitute milk with unsweetened coconut milk or almond milk. If you are on a vegan diet, substitute with non dairy milk and a flaxseed egg substitute. Full disclosure, I have tested that yet, but I don’t see why it would not work. If you make this a vegan breakfast, please let me know how it goes.

Additionally, use your favorite fruit or whatever is in season. I made this fruit filling because I needed to use up some leftover dried fruit from my pantry. The dried figs, apricots and cranberries went perfectly with apples and minced ginger. Follow the basic recipe, then substitute the fruit with any seasonal fruit you have available, even frozen fruit. They all work. If raisins are the only fruit you want to use, then you will need a fresh fruit like apples, or bananas sliced lengthwise and cover the bottom of the pan. Mix the raisins with the rolled oats and proceed as directed. The fruit on the bottom of your baking dish will help prevent the oats from sticking to the pan.

Baked Oatmeal with Apples and Apricots recipe

Heidi Swanson of 101 Cookbooks, is my primary source and where I first discovered this simple but remarkable breakfast. For this recipe, I followed a basic formula I found consistent in most baked oatmeal recipes. Typically, they all had about 2 cups of rolled oats, 2 cups of liquid, 1 egg, melted butter, a sweetener, and various amounts of fruit and spices.

March is a tweener month for fresh produce, and why this recipe includes apples and dried fruit. I love to combine fresh and dried fruits. The concentrated flavors of the dried fruit add a lot of fruit flavor. Plus, I had a lot of odd amounts of dried fruit that I needed to use up, and this recipe is perfect for that. My baked oatmeal has a decent amount of fruit in it, but if you want a ratio of more oatmeal than fruit, it is easy to scale the fruit down. Just make sure there is a good fruit layer on the bottom of your pan.

Baked Oatmeal With Apples and Apricots recipe

More breakfast ideas from Lemon Thyme and Ginger:                         Banana Oat Pancakes, Gluten free Dutch Baby Pancake, Lemon Glazed Apple Muffins, Goat Cheese Omelet 

Baked oatmeal is also easy to make ahead and reheat it for a later time. I like to make it on a Sunday morning, then reheat individual portions in the microwave throughout the week. This makes the work week easier to manage when I don’t have to think about what’s for breakfast. You can also prepare it ahead, refrigerate, then reheat the whole dish, covered in aluminum foil, in the oven.

Baked Oatmeal with Apples and Apricots recipe

To be honest, I was surprised at how good baked oatmeal is. However, there is one downsize, and that is I used three bowls to make it. Baked oatmeal may require more cleanup, but it is more enjoyable to eat than the standard stove top recipe. This is one new discovery worth making. Oh baked oatmeal, how I love thee.

Baked Oatmeal with Apples and Apricots

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 35 minutes

Total Time: 50 minutes

6 servings

Baked Oatmeal with Apples and Apricots

Baked oatmeal is an easy and delicious substitute for stovetop oatmeal. All the ingredients are mixed together to make a comforting and nutritious breakfast. It is perfect to make ahead of time, then warm up individual portions to eat during the middle of the week. This is a delicious family breakfast that all members will enjoy.

Use the basic recipe and substitute any fruit to fit into the current season or personal preference.

Serve warm for breakfast or a hearty dessert.

Ingredients

  • 2 apples which can be different varieties but should be ones that do not get too mushy when baked
  • 6 dried apricots
  • 6 dried figs
  • ¼ - ½ cup dried cranberries
  • 1 heaping Tbs of minced ginger
  • ½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg (1/4 tsp if using store bought ground nutmeg)
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 2 cups old fashioned rolled oats
  • Shy ½ cup chopped walnuts (optional)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp Kosher salt
  • ½ tsp ground ginger (optional)
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 Tbs melted butter
  • 2 cups milk or unsweetened nondairy milk - like coconut or almond milk
  • 1/3 cup real maple syrup
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375˚F / 190˚C / Gas Mark 5 and place the rack on the top third of the oven. Generously butter an 8’ x 8” (20cm square) baking pan.
  2. Core and slice the apples then chop into decent bite size pieces. There is no need to peel the apples. Mince the dried apricots into pieces between ¼ inch to ½ inch big. Chop the dried figs into bite size pieces.
  3. Add the prepared fruit into a mixing bowl, then add lemon juice, freshly ground nutmeg, and minced ginger. Mix well to get all the fruit evenly distributed. Set aside.
  4. In another bowl mix together the rolled oats, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ground ginger, and most of the chopped walnuts. (Reserve some walnuts to sprinkle on the top). Mix the ingredients together to get evenly combined. Set aside.
  5. In a third bowl, whisk together the milk, maple syrup, pure vanilla extract, and room temperature melted butter until thoroughly mixed together. Set aside.
    Putting it all together.
  1. Add a good layer of the prepared fruit to generously cover the bottom of the buttered baking dish. Add the oatmeal and spread it to cover the layer of fruit. Pour the milk mixture all over the oatmeal, and tilt the pan to encourage the milk to flow into all corners and throughout the oatmeal. Bang the pan against the counter to make sure the milk has flowed completely through the rolled oats and fruit. Add the remaining fruit and chopped nuts to cover the top of the oatmeal.
  2. Bake for 35 – 45 minutes until it is golden brown on top and looks set in the middle.
  3. Remove the baked oatmeal from the oven and let it rest for 5 to 10 minutes.
  4. Spoon portions of the baked oatmeal in a bowl and serve warm plain, or with additional milk or yogurt. I think it is sweet enough as is, but add more maple syrup if you want it sweeter.
  5. Store in the refrigerator covered for several days. Re-heat in the microwave in a glass container covered with a paper towel.
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© 2017, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

Sweet n’ Spicy Herbed Carrots

Sweet n' Spicy Herbed Carrots recipe

Usually, when I’m making dinner, my primary focus centers on the main entrée. The side dishes get made, but my attention is elsewhere. It is just too stressful to cook three different recipes, that require a lot of ingredients, prepping, and everything done at the same time. I love vegetables and don’t mind eating them without a lot of flourishment. Yet, they do deserve an opportunity to be front and center. Making a composed dinner doesn’t have to take up a lot of time, just a little foresight.

Sweet n' Spicy Herbed Carrots

Most people like carrots. When my son Evan was young, carrots was one of the 3 vegetables he ate. This popular vegetable is easy to prepare and does not require a lot of pampering. It is one of the backbones used to make stocks, soup, stews and braises. If you haven’t given carrots much thought, think again. Carrots are so much more than crudité. I love cooking with them because their natural sweetness and sturdy structure make it easy to pair with bold flavors on either the sweet and/or spicy side.

Sweet n' Spicy Herbed Carrots recipe

Sweet n' Spicy Herbed Carrots recipe

This recipe was inspired by a recipe written by Nigel Slater titled, Harissa Carrots. His recipe is delicious and is featured in his cookbook Eats. In Slater’s recipe he blanches carrots, then mixes them with harissa paste, egg yolk, vinegar and olive oil. The egg yolk in the dressing made it nice and creamy, but not suitable for a vegan diet. My idea was to make a carrot side dish that everyone could eat. So, keeping the flavor of Slater’s Harissa Carrots in my mind, I created a vegan dressing to compliment the carrots natural sweetness, provide some spicy-heat, and lots of fresh herbs. I have said it before and I will say it again, fresh herbs elevate any food from good to awesome. I do not cook without them.

Sweet n' Spicy Herbed Carrots recipe

Sweet n' Spicy Herbed Carrots recipe

In this recipe for Sweet n’ Spicy Herbed Carrots, I use three different types of herbs. I realize cilantro and dill do not have a big fan club. Yet, if you are willing to be adventurous then reduce the amount of cilantro and see if you like it in a blend. There are times when less is more, but this recipe is not one of them. However, if you do not want to commit to all three herbs, use one or two of them. Mint and dill are especially delicious with carrots. I want you to enjoy your meal, so if you know you don’t like something – don’t use it.

Sweet n' Spicy Herbed Carrots Recipe

For me, I am no longer fearful or stingy with how I cook with herbs. Many recipes from Middle Eastern cuisine have inspired me to combine herbs and not use them by themselves. There are many herbs that compliment each other, and tasting an abundance of the freshness is always welcome in a recipe.

More carrot recipes: One Pan, One Meal Chicken Dinner

Fortunately, making Sweet n’ Spicy Herbed Carrots, is as easy as making a salad. Making this dish won’t take up a lot of your attention, but the results will taste as if you slaved all day. The spicy heat is in the background and will grow as you continue to enjoy your meal. I prefer all the ingredients to balance one another. This recipe is not about the heat but about balance, and bringing all these flavors together to give carrots center stage.

Sweet n' Spicy Herbed Carrots recipe

Sweet n' Spicy Herbed Carrots reicpe

Sweet n' Spicy Herbed Carrots reicpe

Serve with any grilled meats and white meat fish. They are also delicious as part of a vegan bowl made with greens, carrots, chickpeas, a grain, and nuts. Enjoy!

Sweet n’ Spicy Herbed Carrots

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 2 minutes

Total Time: 17 minutes

6 servings

Serving Size: 3oz

Sweet n’ Spicy Herbed Carrots

Carrots are a great and pleasing vegetable. Their natural sweetness makes them a very versatile food that most people enjoy eating. This recipe for carrots has a nice balance of flavors, not too sweet and not too spicy. I prefer the heat to be in the background and not dominate the flavor of the food.

The fresh herbs add a bright green touch and really compliment the carrot's sweetness. Add all three herbs or just a couple. The mint adds a really nice touch and it is not too overbearing.

Perfect with grilled meats, and most fish. Sweet n' Spicy carrots are also great as part of a vegan meal made with greens, grains, these carrots and walnuts.

Ingredients

  • One inch piece of fresh ginger
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard (smooth or grainy)
  • 2 tsp honey (or 1 tsp maple syrup for a vegan recipe)
  • 1/4 tsp ground chili pepper* (more if you want it hotter)
  • Zest from 1 lime
  • Juice from half a lime, reserve the other half to add if needed
  • 1 Tb red wine vinegar*
  • 1/4 tsp Kosher salt
  • 4 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tb chopped cilantro
  • 1 Tb chopped mint
  • 1 Tb chopped dill (optional)
  • 1 1/2 lbs / 683g medium size carrots
  • 2" piece of daikon radish (3 oz / 87g)

Instructions

  1. Gently scrape off the thin skin of ginger using the edge of a teaspoon. Be careful not to dig into the flesh of the ginger root. Once the skin is removed, thinly slice the ginger and mince. Add to a small mixing bowl.
  2. Add the Dijon mustard, honey, (maple syrup), ground chili pepper, lime zest and juice, vinegar, and Kosher salt into the bowl with the minced ginger. Whisk together until well combined.
  3. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil, a little at a time. While you drizzle, whisk to create an emulsion. Once all the olive oil is added, give it a good whisk to keep the oil and acid from separating.
  4. Taste the dressing and correct the seasoning to suit your taste.
  5. Add the herbs, then whisk to combine. Set the sweet and spicy dressing aside while you prepare and cook the carrots.
  6. Peel the carrots and trim the ends. Cut each carrot in half across the width, then cut each piece in half down the length. Cut all the pieces in half lengthwise to create long carrot strips.
  7. Fill a medium saucepan with water and turn the heat up to high. Add a pinch of Kosher salt, a 1/4 inch sliver of ginger, and 2 crushed garlic cloves to the water. Bring the pot to a boil and add the carrots. Cook the carrots for 1-2 minutes after the water returns to a boil. Drain the carrots and pick out the garlic cloves and ginger. Add the carrots to a mixing bowl.
  8. Peel and julienne the daikon radish in long thin strips. Add the daikon to the carrots and gently toss the carrots and daikon radish with your hands to mix together. Before you add the dressing taste it again and make any adjustments. Add the dressing, give it a gentle but good stir until the vegetables are evenly coated with the dressing.
  9. Serve hot, warm or room temperature.

Notes

Use your favorite ground chili. The ground chili I used has a bright flavored heat, not a smokey one. Sorry I do not know the name of it. I started with a quarter teaspoon of ground chili then added a little more later. This meal is not about the heat, but about the balance of heat and sweetness. Good substitutes are: your favorite ground chili powder, harissa paste, Thai chili paste, or sriracha. Adjust the amount you add to match the chili's heat. Example, if you use sriracha I would begin with 1/2 teaspoon then add more later if needed. Just like cooking with salt, it is always good to start with less then add more.

Do not substitute balsamic vinegar for this dressing. Good substitutions are: white wine vinegar, sherry vinegar, or apple cider vinegar.

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© 2017, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.